Sep 8, 2013
Shon Coleman’s teammates celebrated when he played in the fourth quarter against Arkansas State (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – In the fourth quarter of Auburn’s 38-9 victory over Arkansas State last Saturday night, Shon Coleman got the word for which he’d waited for more than three years. He dreamed of it in the dark days after he heard the numbing diagnosis that he had leukemia and while he worked out all alone in his push to play football again.
Almost four years after he last played in a football game, Coleman was told to go into the game at left tackle. He stepped onto the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium and helped lead a touchdown drive.
Coleman had been one of the South’s top offensive line prospects in the country when, in February 2010, he signed with Auburn out of Olive Branch (Miss.) High School. Months later, he started the long road that would finally lead him back to the football field.
When it happened, defensive end LaDarius Owens, his friend and teammate, wanted to stand up and cheer.
Owens and Coleman were in the same recruiting class. Owens is a fourth-year junior. Coleman, as the result of his illness and a waiver from the NCAA, is a redshirt freshman.
“It felt good,” Owens said. “During camp, Shon and I talked about the competition he had trying to get in the lineup. He said he was going to be patient and work his butt off. It was good to see him, with everything he’s been through, get out there and play. It was good to see. Hopefully, we will see more of it in the coming weeks.”
After the game, a steady stream of teammates came to congratulate Coleman and to share in the moment. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee noticed.
“In the moment, I didn’t notice anything different,” Lashlee said. “I didn’t even think of the fact that Shon had never played. I could tell in the locker room after the game that they were pretty excited for him.
“At that point, for the kid, it was just the realization that ‘Wow, I made it to this point.’ Now that it’s behind him he can focus on becoming a great football player, which I think he can be.”
Coleman impressed first-year offensive line coach J.B. Grimes last spring and again in preseason camp, but Coleman couldn’t crack the starting lineup. He offered no complaints.
Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has no doubt that his time will come.
“Great kid,” Grimes said. “I think he has a chance to be really good. Physically, God blessed him with a lot of ability.”
Coleman will be ready if called when Auburn plays Mississippi State at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday in its Southeastern Conference opener. For now, getting into a game that was already decided was enough. Owens said his friend was still enjoying it Sunday.
“After the game and still today you could tell there’s just a different glow about him,” Owens said. “He had made it. We played against each other in all-star games and were around each other in recruiting. I feel good for Shon. We’ve both been through some different times, mine not as bad as his. It’s just good to see anybody overcome different things in life.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: